January 11, 2005

The Bias Thing

One of the guys at Power Line picked up on a few things that I noticed, too, about Mary Mapes. Most notably:

On July 23, Michael Smith, a freelance journalist in Texas who was working on the story along with Mapes, sent her an email that began: "I am close to something that the Bushies are worried about..." Mapes responded: "I desperately want to talk to you....Do NOT underestimate how much I want this story."

On July 30, Mapes sent an email to one of her superiors at CBS in which she wrote: "...there is some very interesting Bush stuff shaking out there right now...Re...his qualification [sic] and refusal of service in Vietnam, etc. Lots of goodies."

On August 3, she emailed again: "There is a storm brewing in Austin re the Bush stuff....It is much more intense than it was four years ago and there is a strong general feeling that this time, there is blood in the water."

Now, I would normally be quick to say "Aha! Pure evidence of political bias!" And, I'm still a little convinced that was probably the case. However, there is an alternative explanation, and it's an explanation that still hints at bias, but at least it's non-partisan bias.

Since Nixon and Watergate, the press redefined itself in many respects, not the least of which has been in its appraisal of those in power. The Watergate scandal set the media bar exceedingly high. It was no longer a case of reporting on the activities of the White House; it became a case of trying to unseat whomever happened to be in the executive seat, whether Democrat or Republican.

The mainstream media is positively allergic when it comes to White House reporting. They automatically deeply suspect and mistrust everything that comes out of the West Wing. Their holy grail is all about taking down the president, no matter their political affiliation. Why? For one thing, it's the story of a lifetime; they can go down in history as the person, or people, who brought down a sitting president. That's pretty heady stuff, no matter what side of the political spectrum you're sitting on. For another thing, a story like that breeds even more news stories, and it's the kind of thing audiences tune into. In a word: revenue.

Therefore, it's entirely possible that Mapes and the folks at CBS were operating under a bias that truly was non-political. They may have fully believed they were truly delivering "truth to power." It's still a bias, and a rampant bias at that. And I'm not sure, exactly, how to fix that problem.

Posted by Ryan at January 11, 2005 10:26 AM
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